July 7, 2013

Maine Gardener: Blooms bring some va-va-voom to yard

By TOM ATWELL

Spring bursts forth with blossoms, beginning with witch hazel and continuing to forsythia, lilac, viburnums, amelanchier, weigela, apples, dogwood and more.

In the fall, the woodies provide color with the turning foliage.

But in the summer, the landscape becomes a lot greener.

I put out some calls to local nurseries to see what trees and shrubs staffers would recommend for bloom in July and August.

Tom Estabrook of Estabrooks in Yarmouth, Scarborough and Kennebunk and Tim Bate of Skillins in Falmouth both suggested Rose of Sharon, the shrub hibiscus.

"They bloom from the end of July into August and are very popular," Bate said. "One I like is Lil' Kim, a more compact variety at 3 to 4 feet tall. That makes it easier to use as a foundation plant, and it is hardy to 20 below. It has a white flower with a red center."

Estabrook said he had a variety of Rose of Sharons from white to lavender and red, and they make a good statement in the summer.

The Rose of Sharon that Nancy and I have in our yard does not bloom until September, but we think that is because it is in heavy shade and has to put up with a lot of cooling fog during the summer.

Hydrangeas are probably the most popular shrub for providing flowers in July and August.

"Endless Summer" has been out for more than a decade now, and it is about the earliest of the hydrangeas.

"Hydrangea is certainly the standard for summer bloom," Estabrook said. " 'Quickfire' (a red panicum) will be out in early July, as will 'Limelight' and a host of others."

Claudia Risbara of Risbara's Greenhouse in Portland said that most of the PeeGee or paniculata grandiflora hydrangeas won't come into their prime until after August, but "Endless Summer" and "Incrediball" will come out in July.

" 'Incrediball' is an 'Annabelle' type with huge white balls, and that is really attractive," she said.

Jeff O'Donal of O'Donal's Nursery in Gorham said the Macrophylla hydrangeas such as "Endless Summer" do well in midsummer, and while the Panicum hydrangeas are later, "Quickfire" does come early.

"It is just showing color (in late June) and will turn from white to pink and then red, and last right through October," O'Donal said.

Bate suggested a couple of summer-blooming deciduous azaleas that sound attractive, both from Weston Nurseries in Massachusetts.

"I like 'Weston's Innocence,' which has a white flower with a very nice fragrance and very nice foliage," he said. "It will ultimately get to be about 6 to 10 feet tall, but its 15-year height is about 6 feet.

"A red-flowered variety that comes out round the 4th of July is 'Millenium.' It is very pretty with foliage that is bluish-green with a silvery undersides, and that is fragrant as well," he said.

Estabrook and Risbara both recommend Stewartia.

"It gets probably 18 feet tall and 15 feet wide, but it is a slow grower," Estabrook said. "It has a white flower with a yellow center, with a really nice seed pod. And it has a nice fall color."

Risbara said that the leaves look a bit like viburnums, and are quite attractive.

And Estabrook had something to add about viburnums.

"They wouldn't bloom now, but they have a really nice berry set in that period," he said.

O'Donal recommended two old stand-bys -- spirea and potentilla -- that bloom earlier, but will rebloom in mid summer if you trim them.

" 'Anthony Watera,' 'Gold Flame,' and 'Magic Carpet,' all of those dwarf brumulda ones, do bloom earlier than that, but if you deadhead them, they reflush and rebloom and look good.

"Potentilla will show late and form flower buds again if you deadhead," he added. "They might rebloom even if you don't trim them back, but they will look a little scraggly."

Risbara, Bate and O'Donal also recommended roses, but not the old roses that cause so much trouble.

"The new 'Home Run' roses are in competition with the 'Knockout' roses," Risbara said. "They are very similar, they don't require much care, are resistant to the black spot and long blooming." O'Donal added Oso Easy as another brand of the tough landscape roses.

"There is new one from Bailey called 'Calypso' that has a unique apricot color," Bate said. "It's a compact variety and gets only a couple of feet tall and is a rebloomer, with blooms continuing right up until frost."

O'Donal and Estabrook both recommended caryopteris, or Blue Mist falsespirea as a good plant.

"It is bordeline hardy," O'Donal said. "You either have to protect them or treat them like a rose. If they die replace them if you like them."

Estabrook likes Hypericum, which has dark yellow flowers in midsummer.

Everyone recommended Clethra, although O'Donal thought it might be a little later than August.

It might be a little bit tall for every garden, but O'Donal really likes the catalpa tree.

"It's just about as pretty a tree as you can get, and it should be in bloom (in early July)," he said. "But not every garden can handle a 60-footer." 

Tom Atwell has been writing the Maine Gardener column since 2004. He is a freelance writer gardening in Cape Elizabeth and can be contacted at 767-2297 or at:

tomatwell@me.com 

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